Tool Use, Aye-Ayes, and Sensorimotor IntelligenceSterling E.J.a · Povinelli D.J.b
aDeutsches Primatenzentrum, Göttingen, Germany, and bLaboratory of Comparative Behavioral Biology, University of Southwestern Louisiana, New Iberia Research Center, New Iberia, La., USA
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Humans, chimpanzees, capuchins and aye-ayes all display an unusually high degree of encephalization and diverse omnivorous extractive foraging. It has been suggested that the high degree of encephalization in aye-ayes may be the result of their diverse, omnivorous extractive foraging behaviors. In combination with certain forms of tool use, omnivorous extractive foraging has been hypothesized to be linked to higher levels of sensorimotor intelligence (stages 5 or 6). Although free-ranging aye-ayes have not been observed to use tools directly in the context of their extractive foraging activities, they have recently been reported to use lianas as tools in a manner that independently suggests that they may possess stage 5 or 6 sensorimotor intelligence. Although other primate species which display diverse, omnivorous extractive foraging have been tested for sensorimotor intelligence, aye-ayes have not. We report a test of captive aye-ayes’ comprehension of tool use in a situation designed to simulate natural conditions. The results support the view that aye-ayes do not achieve stage 6 comprehension of tool use, but rather may use trial-and-error learning to develop tool-use behaviors. Other theories for aye-aye encephalization are considered.
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